Ng Han Guan/AP
Chinese cyclists ride past heavy traffic on
a foggy day in Beijing,
China. (AP)

China’s Buying Big and Increasing Global Oil Demands

July 30, 2008 02:30 PM
by Cara McDonough
While Americans look for alternatives to their gas-guzzling cars, in China, auto sales are up—and bigger is better.

30-Second Summary

The United States remains the world’s biggest oil consumer, but China now accounts for 40 percent of the world’s recent increase in demand for oil, The Washington Post reports.

As China’s middle class becomes more affluent, demand for automobiles is up. Four percent of the country’s 1.3 billion people have bought a passenger car, and Chinese culture means car owners are looking for something specific.

“In China, size matters,” said Zhang Linsen, who owns a Hummer H2. “People want to have a car that shows off their status in society. No one wants to buy small.”

In addition to car owners’ desire to impress their neighbors, there is pressure from individual cities and the Chinese government to buy cars. Many cities ban cars with engines smaller than one liter, claiming the vehicles are “old and dirty.” Beijing has simplified procedures for buying cars and has banned bicycles on some larger streets, and the government is offering financial incentives to those buying cars.

Because of the size of the Chinese population, the trend is enough to offset oil conservation measures adopted by other nations, and the country’s economic boom is nowhere near slowing. Some analysts predict China could soon usurp the United States as the primary world power.

Furthermore, the country’s attitude toward large cars, buoyed by relatively low gas prices at about $3.40 a gallon, seems solid, at least for now.

“A small car is for people with money problems or if they want it as an extra car to give to their wives, daughters or girlfriends to go buy food,” said car salesman Xie Bin.

Headline Links: ‘China’s Cars Accelerate a Global Demand for Fuel’

Background: China’s growing economy

Related Topics: U.S. SUV sales; oil and gas prices; the baby boomer effect


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